The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are on a losing streak that has stretched to seven games and have yet to win at their new stadium.
Still, the players are confident they can turn things around.
The Blue Bombers have a rematch Sunday with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, who trounced them 48-25 last week to improve 8-1 at the top of the CFL standings and leave Winnipeg at 1-8.
“I think there’s a lot of optimism in our locker-room right now,” said quarterback Justin Goltz, who will make his second straight start Sunday.
He says the team like what new offensive co-ordinator Marcel Bellefeuille has brought to the table and even takes heart in all the mid-season scouting and signing, as management tries to strengthen the club.
“With the changes that have happened in the past couple of weeks I think it’s pretty obvious that (general manager) Kyle Walters and everybody involved in personnel is doing the best they can, and anything and everything they can, to find the right guys to put in the right positions in order for us to win games,” Goltz said.
Defensive lineman Bryant Turner says a team can overcome a start like this in the CFL.
“It is a league you know where you can start off with a start like this and come out somehow in the playoffs, which is great for us right now because we really need the help,” he said.
Veteran receiver Terrence Edwards remembers a season when he played in Montreal that saw a strong start followed by a similar losing streak and they still made the Grey Cup.
“Landscape can quickly be turned around,” he said.
With such a strong start, it might seem like the only thing that can slow Saskatchewan is complacency but coach Corey Chamblin says there is little danger of that.
“Like I told the guys, in the first half of the season we did a very good job but that’s behind us and it’s time for us to start a brand new season,” he said Saturday.
“There’s not enough cushion between us and the other guys in the west for us to start to get complacent.”
Calgary is in hot pursuit at 8-2.
Riders quarterback Darian Durant says they’re not underestimating the Bombers.
“Those guys came out last week and they gave us a good shot. They did some things we’re not used to,” he said.
The Bombers jumped into an early 10-point lead although it evaporated in the second half and the wheels really came off in the fourth quarter, letting Saskatchewan pile up points.
“They played a great first three quarters to be honest with you,” said Durant. “We know that if we take these guys lightly they can jump on us and get a win and we can’t afford for that to happen so we have to make sure we get off to a great start.”
Winnipeg head coach Tim Burke says he has endured some losing streaks in the past when he was a college coach and it didn’t seem there was a way out.
But he says he doesn’t feel that way now.
“The players are still buying in and their effort is good and I think they’re trying to get better every week and management is also working harder to help us.”
Saskatchewan is looking for home-field advantage in the playoffs and very much wants to be part of the Grey Cup game Regina will host Nov. 24.
Running back Kory Sheets has some personal business to attend to as well this season, a little record smashing. He’s on a pace to fulfil his promise to break Mike Pringle’s single-season CFL rushing record of 2,065 yards.
“I have no choice, I made a bold statement,” said Sheets, who has accumulated 1,149 so far.
Meanwhile, he said he had no issues with the imitation Goltz did last week in Regina of Sheets own touchdown celebration.
“It was a cute imitation, it was kind of weak in my opinion,” he said. “But he’s a quarterback, he’s not expected to do much.”